Beverly Birch: Between a rock and a hard place

On January 10th 2012, children's fiction writer Beverly Birch gave a talk at the Hampshire Writers' Society meeting, attended by Hilary and Kirsty.

Beverly has written over 40 books and guided others in the writing process for 30 years. Her novels are published by Egmont and she also commissions fiction for Hodder: always on the look our for the fresh, bold and unusual.

Report by Hilary Gregory

Between a rock and a hard place: keeping faith with your writing self in today’s stormy commercial seas.
A story bursting out of you? Instinct says readers would respond? Writer friends and mentors say so too. Publishers and agents say it’s ‘too quiet/too subtle/ not strong enough/ won’t ‘work’/ market too difficult/ won’t find a readership’. Despair? Give up? A discussion of strategies for analysis to moving forward without losing your creative integrity.
Speaker: Beverley Birch
Bio: Beverley has found her way between the rocks with over 40 books, and guided others for 30 years. Her novels are published by Egmont; she commissions fiction for Hodder, always on the look-out for the fresh, bold and unusual.

Summary:

• M.D Hodder – ‘it’s only about the hook and high street sales including Azda, Tescos, Waterstones,  no one’s talking about the reader
• Most criticisms are about a book being too quiet, not distinctive enough so shape what you have to succeed. Focus on plotting, characters, setting, interesting peaks and troughs,
• Choose the best publisher – sales figures are accessible and failure can follow you. You have to interview them about what they can do for you.  Sales of 10,000 – 15,000 to break even for publisher.
• Timing is important – sometimes you have to put a book away if the timeing isn’t right and bring it out when it is – e.g. Vampire Diaries were gathering dust at Hodder.
• Chose a literary agent that is passionate about your work
• Think about voice, presentation, angle of attack, something that will make your story leap off the page
• The hook can be simple – e.g. kids break a code
• Whisk reader into the story quickly
• Remove first chapter before sending it to a publisher
• Vigorous individual voice
• Make it real for children. She recommends 3rd person with personal viewpoint
• Growth areas in publishing- paranormal romance
• Stories  in a current setting  do better
• You must look at what publishers published within the last 2 years
• Write what’s inside you
• Lots of famous writers are considering self-publishing. If you do choose the printer carefully and make sure that your book is indistinguishable from any other book in the book shop. In fact, chose the printer of a book you like!
• Good printers -  SALT, OUP, Anthony Row, CPI,
• Look at creating book trailers – it shows you how on the web

 

 

Photographs:

Portrait Beverly Birch - own photography

Rainbook © Christina Cummings 2012